Holiday in Cambodia – Part 4. Magic The Gathering Part I. The First World

I’ve decided to split my last post into two parts after some revision. Sorry it was so long. 

After only seven treatments, I’ve been released on my own recognizance, maybe upon my wife’s pleas, I’m not sure. It’s all been a bit cloudy up here in the noggin. Oh, I haven’t told you yet? I’ve just had shock treatment, which makes me more punk rock than Joey Ramone; and he’s dead. Although, I’m not entirely sure how long ago just is. AliceOh, Alice dear!electro-chock-therapy

In any case, that’s the primary reason my posts have been, and will likely continue to be, quite spotty. Ramones songs and images of 1940’s asylums aside, the procedure itself wasn’t that bad. Everyone was quite friendly—perhaps they were former clients. I even got away with a song requests after my 3rd treatment. Naturally, my first was the Ramones.

Continue reading “Holiday in Cambodia – Part 4. Magic The Gathering Part I. The First World”

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It’s been a long time since I did the Stroll.

ledzeppelin

Let me get back
Let me get back
Ooh, Baby…

Oh! Hello, I didn’t see you standing in my living room. Perhaps my first question should be, what are you doing standing in my living room?” Oh, I see. Well just because the door was open. What? There was a sign. Well, maybe it was meant for someone else… It was a neon sign, hanging 20 meters in the sky?

It must be a sign, I suppose.

Well, anyways, I’m glad you’re here.

Legends-of-the-Fall-brad-pitt-21854491-852-480I want you back. I’m sorry I’ve been away. I’ve been, finding myself. You know, exploring the world of game design? Right, baby?

No!!! Of course I didn’t have an affair with Richard Garfield…

No Uwe Rosenberg, no Trzewiczek.
No Knizia, no Bauza, I say no to the set.
No Feld, nor Brand, and this I demand!
Okay, maybe once with Vlaada Chvátil,
I was on the bottle but it didn’t mean anything,
It just happened. Things happen, if you know what I mean
And there they all were in our love covered sheets,
All the game designers I’ve met in my dreams…
I’m going to stop singing now.

I guess when we met, I was in a really low place and this blog helped me through it. It helped me keep myself focused on something when everything else was so very out of focus. I emerged with design ideas and a cool project I can’t talk about.

So, much like the man whose loving wife has paid his way through college, you were left in the dust.

Well, here I am today to talk about the next game design that completely failed. Only, I’m not sure where we left off and I’m too apathetic to look. So we’ll talk about Parkinson’s a little bit and how that’s effected my life most recently.

2000px-handicapped_accessible_sign-svgIt turns out that according to the US government I’m disabled. That’s a relief, because I thought it was just me. Everyone told me to anticipate waiting years for approval. I was approved very quickly. So, I don’t know if I just did some things that other didn’t or if I am just that disabled. I have a feeling it’s the latter. I also have a feeling that I’ve got a couple of serious medical treatments coming up this year.

My first visit now will be to the BMV for front row passes and then to the internet to buy this:

 

The first is shock treatment. Oh, sure, they call it something fancy, like ECT and tell you there’ll be cake. But it’s the same thing they were doing 50 years ago and the Cake is lie. Sending lightning bolts through your brain. My psychiatrist and my Neurologist both say they’ve had very good results with it on Parkinson’s patients.

JohnnyPluggedInSome slight… or major memory loss may occur. Want to remember getting married? Nope… sorry sir that door is closed for now. How about the births of your children? Alas, we must keep it from you until you brain finds a way to hotwire itself back together.

The second is DBS, another innocuous name. It is a surgery where the top of your skull is removed while you’re awake and the doctors place electrodes on your brain to determine where exactly they must be placed to help with your symptoms. What could possibly go wrong here?

Needless to say, neither of these sound very appealing to me.

I’m scared. Like, I’m really scared. I’m disabled in my thirties and I don’t think it’s possible I’ll ever go back to normal. There are all these new normals I can picture:

Here’s our first wedding anniversary, and I can’t make the travel arrangements to the special night away we had planned because there’s no way I can sit in the car for 8 hours in a day.

Here’s me bugging everyone and their brother for a ride into town because I’m not able to drive and I need to get out of the house for a little bit and socialize so I don’t become a complete recluse.

Here’s me at age 45 sitting in a wheel chair with drool running down the side of my chin, both hands racing to clatter against my thighs. My legs racing for the ground but all they hit are these metal feet that I’m supposed to keep my feet in.

Here’s me dead at 50.

Quite a few dark thoughts today. I guess I never know what’s coming up. But now I have some new normals for us to think about:

Here’s me with no job related stress, doing what I want with my life, designing games.

Here’s me spending time with our children every day after school.

Here’s me overcoming my symptoms to continue leading a life. Not a “normal” life perhaps, but a life just the same.

This is a transitional period for me. I’ve been in a cocoon and I’m beginning to come out into the world again, maybe. Maybe, I’ll get snatched up by something that eats young butterflies or things in cocoons. Maybe that Hamster mistakes me for a burrito and the video gets 10 million views.

Parkinson’s Sucks… That’s all I have left on the subject. I’ll recommence writing posts that actually pertain to my road of game design as soon as possible. I’ll try to keep the grousing to a minimum.

Billy Board Game is dead… Long live Billy Board Game

As a post script, if anyone else would like to help out with Parkinson’s research. You can give to the Michael J. Fox Foundation here. It’s the best of the lot of non-profits (at least in the US).

Parky Interlude 003

It’s been awhile since I’ve written a Parky Interlude. That isn’t because Parkinson’s hasn’t been interrupting life. In fact, the opposite is true. But my most recent interruptions haven’t been Parkinson’s symptoms. They’ve been two other problems that are often associated with Parkinson’s: Mood and Anxiety Disorders.

I’m going to share three recent examples of the ancillary effects that Parkinson’s has on my life and that of my family. The first regards Anxiety, the second the side effects of medications, and the third Depression.

I’ll start by saying that I’ve went from driving rarely to not driving at all. This has become an issue of its own because we live in the county surrounding Evansville and not within walking distance of anything.

This is dirty laundry, folks, and it has nothing to do with board games. So if the smell bothers you come back another time.

My partner and I finished watching an episode of Orange is the New Black. It’s a show that everyone who watches Netflix has no doubt already watched or dismissed, but we’re really enjoying it. The commentary on the American penal system is just amazing and the characterization is better than anything on network television.

All of that to say, it was a very normal night with nothing out of place. We were getting ready for bed when I suddenly started having very dark, abstract thoughts. Then every time I closed my eyes I felt a sudden rush of some kind of terrible presence. Then, I started to panic.

People with an Anxiety Disorder will know how this works. You go from being a normal human being to feeling like a rat with it’s tail trapped by the sudden triggering of a spring, just waiting for something to devour you. Your fight or flight response is ratcheted up, and you have no recourse to either. You can do nothing but wait it out.

Last week, shortly after this episode, we went to see my neurologist and psychiatrist at Vanderbilt. It’s a 2 1/2 hour drive but the quality of care and access to specialists in movement disorders and Parkinson’s treatment is worth the drive. I was given a prescription for a new pill. Just what I needed.

After taking this pill for less than a week I had an episode where I: drove around at high speed through various parts of the city, nearly hit a deer, went home, punted a trash can full of buffalo chicken bones across the kitchen, convinced myself that someone had stolen my car keys, found the car keys, drove to work, sat in the parking lot, and finally found my way back to my family who were at an Extra Life event.

Now, driving to work might not seem all that weird in the scheme of things, but having been out of work for just over 3 months now it begins to smell a little fishy. I was convinced that I had to do payroll. When I got to the church where the Extra Life event was being hosted I sat in the car listening to music staring out into space. My partner came out and I screamed in fright when she opened the car door. I sobbed when I told her I had to go back to work to do payroll or I’d lose my job.

So, a couple days ago the braintrust at Vanderbilt said to stop taking this new medication. Last night I was so depressed I locked myself in a room in the basement for the better part of the day. I didn’t want to do anything or see anybody. I haven’t felt so low in a long time.

Distraction is my main coping mechanism. But sometimes it’s hard to think about coping with these things at all. Sometimes things fall apart and the center will not hold. Sometimes Yeats is appropriate. Sometimes Achebe more so.

So, here’s to a better tomorrow when today has fallen apart.

Game Design #8: Side Effects May Include…

Drug Card Back
Drugs are bad, mmmkay…

Do you ever wonder if you’re taking drugs just to counteract other drugs?

That question and my own very personal experience with it were the game’s impetus. I was going to design a game that people can just laugh and have a good time with.

I started development at the beginning of July of 2014 and had a prototype for GenCon. This game has some of my favorite graphic design work so you get lots of pictures today.

The primary mechanic comes from a game known by many names, among others: Ranter-Go-Round, Chase the Ace, and Bohemian Poker. In our house though, it was always Screw Your Neighbor. I loved the game because my mom always paid my way in, and I got to say the word screw.

Side Effect36It goes like this.

Players are dealt a single card. They must decide whether to keep their card or pass it. The dealer decides whether to take a card from the deck or keep her card. The person with the lowest card loses. Generally there are a set number of bets and the last person with money in front of her takes the pot.

Condition Cards24
It’s funny because that’s what I have.

Now my game.

Each round a Condition is drawn and players “manufacture” drugs for the condition. The dealer sits out and decides which drug wins. She deals one card to each player. Then the game plays like Screw Your Neighbor but the cards aren’t revealed just yet. Players collect 5 side effects and then pass them to the judge in envelopes along with their drug card. The judge reads them; hilarity ensues.

I tried to add more game to it with special powers but it was more fun without them.
I tried to add more game to it with special powers but it was more fun without them.

image 7And you know what? It really did! Everyone who played at GenCon laughed. And I’m not  talking giggles. I’m talking belly rollers.

One playtester came back with her partner to play again. Amanda and Vece you are awesome and I’m sorry we missed each other at GenCon this year.

This one always got at least a few laughs.
This one always got at least a few laughs.

So, this is a success story, right? Oh, clever reader, you know me well. These are the Exploits and Misadventure of an Amateur Designer. So what happened this time, Billy?

Just after GenCon I learned that Gil Hova was working on a party game with the same theme. Gil was an absolute professional about the whole thing when it came up on Twitter. He even went so far as to offer to drop work on his project.

I decided that the game was going to go to Kickstarter. But I never launched and Gil eventually released his game, Bad Medicine. It just arrived in the mail.

When I got home from GenCon I was really excited. Then I spent all of an hour coming up with new Side Effects before I lost steam.Side Effect35

Once Gil announced that he was going forward with his Kickstarter I put the game up on BGG. And as usual, here is my consolation prize. Side Effects May Include… is my first game to be entered into the BGG game database. The files are available to anyone for download.

I had a discussion months later in which I stated that I didn’t want my first game to be a party game. It took me some time to realize I had lost sight of my goal. I want to be published. I want this site to be Exploits and Misadventures of a Professional Game Designer.

I don’t care if my first game is Jersey Shore: The Board Game as long as my name’s on the box.

image 4

Parky Interlude 002

Hello Everybody,

It’s a Sunday evening; the kids are all home; and everyone is watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Watching television is a campfire experience for us, not something we do frequently. We generally watch as a family. Instead, tonight I’m going to share something with you late Sunday readers (both of you).

I’ve thought a lot about whether to post video of myself when my medication has worn off. It’s ugly; I don’t like watching it. The video shows my Parkinson’s.

People with Parkinson’s get very good at hiding things. We hide our disease. We hide our symptoms. We hide away from the world. Sometimes you just get tired of hiding. So I’m not going to hide this. I’m going to show it to you because it sucks.

Parkinson’s is a disease clouded in mystery. It’s an old people disease. It’s like dementia and Alzheimer’s, and Lou Gehrig’s. It’s something you get from boxing or huffing paint or that girl down the street your mom warned you about. No one’s really quite sure what Parkinson’s is or what it does. I have it and I’m still not sure.

Parkinson’s informs every aspect of my life, but I’m not my Parkinson’s. I’m mother loving Billy Board Game with a gosh darn Dream.

So here is my Parkinson’s. Your mileage may vary.

If you know someone who has Parkinson’s please consider donating.

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Parky Interlude 001

I sincerely hope people have enjoyed my story thus far and will continue to enjoy it. If you are just tuning in, we will resume our regularly scheduled programming about board games and game design momentarily. I just wanted to pause for a moment and write about a few things not related to my epic game design fails.

I’d like to write about my Parkinson’s for a moment. Because even if you know someone with Parkinson’s, or know someone who’s dad has Parkinson’s, or you’ve seen Michael J. Fox on television, their story, their symptoms, are different than mine. That is because Parkinson’s is what is commonly referred to as a boutique illness.

Doesn’t that sound lovely?

Hello, Madame. How can I be of service today?

Oh yes, thank you. A friend told me about this illness. It’s very exclusive isn’t it?

Ahh but of course, every customer we serve walks away with something unique.  We provide a speciality service to each of our customers. We cater to their… how you say… needs. For you, I think maybe the … bradykinesia, brain fog, anxiety, depression, and the constipation for starters. 

Oh, you’re too kind.. 

And since you are a new customer we will throw in the insomnia at no extra charge. 

This is a big part of my story. It’s sometimes funny, sometimes sad, but it’s always my life.

Over the past 6 months I’ve felt as if most of the time my thoughts were swimming through gelatin and that my brain had become a vat of gelatin. I’m not sure that’s getting any better. Actually, within the past few months it’s been much worse.

But I have these moments of pure, golden, delicious lucidity where the world becomes a just and beautiful place.

So I’ll write when I find those moments. I’ll design when I find those moments. I’ll live when I find those moments.

On with the show.